The availability of information has changed everything.
It was gradual, at first. Radio. Television. “Live”entertainment and news reporting put people in the moment. It was censored and edited in the beginning, but over the past couple of decades, it has become increasingly unfiltered…with unlimited availability.
The internet has given a voice to anybody and everybody. 24 hours a day. An expert is anyone with a keyboard. Somebody’s opinion is just a click away. Somebody’s perspective is always waiting for you to read it, listen to it, or watch it.
The same medium that can show you how to fix a compressor on a refrigerator or properly hang a kitchen cabinet, can also provide you with instant filth or the non-stop rants of atheists bent on making a mockery of people of faith.
In the 1970’s, about the only place my faith was ever challenged intellectually was at San Diego State University… by my philosophy professors and the campus radicals who stood up in the quad to heckle the open-air street preachers who were proclaiming the message of “turn or burn” every day to the uninterested crowds.
Nowadays, there are hundreds (probably thousands) of websites dedicated to debunking orthodox, biblical faith at our fingertips. Granted, I probably do more searching of theology, philosophy and social issues than the average joe…but if I am constantly encountering things that challenge my beliefs and cause me to dig really deep to come up with intelligent responses, I can only image there are others with the same struggles.
And many of them are part of a younger generation that seems to be rejecting the life and message of the church in such alarming numbers.
Anybody can post anything on Facebook with authority. It’s the pulpit for the masses. No training required. No education required. No consequences for plagiarism, bias, or citing sources that haven’t been properly researched. Facebook “preachers” pontificate their version of the truth (on unlimited subjects) to listening ears with absolute conviction and authoritative certainty.
And people believe it. And there’s no stopping it.
Watchdog bloggers are everywhere exposing the sins of churches and church leaders. All of our dirty laundry (toxic leadership, sexual abuse of members, financial mismanagement, manipulative deception, the wack-job fringe, in-fighting, theological wars, crazy authoritarian church discipline, lack of love, harsh judgement…need I go on?) is hanging on the close line for everybody to see. Things that only the “insiders” knew about are now part of the everyday internet landscape.
I love the accountability. I hate the exposure.
Forty years ago, the majority of theological minds who were writing books and being published in mainstream religious circles were coming from the conservative, evangelical community. This has blown up in recent years. Progressive and liberal voices in the church are being heard loud and clear and they are full of well-articulated theological positions and arguments I NEVER heard when I was younger, even though they were out there.
They just didn’t have the medium.
They do now.
It’s a brave, new world. Being a follower of Christ in the United States is no longer a privileged position. What I believe no longer goes unchallenged. I don’t start from the pole position anymore.
And I’m ok with that.